October 24, 2012
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is setting new guidelines and requirements for students in nutrition, nutrition education and physical activity with updates to theDistrict’s Local School Wellness policy. The new guidelines were approved by the Chicago Board of Education on Wednesday.
School districts must revisit their wellness policies every three years under requirements of the Federal School Nutrition Program. With approval by the Board, CPS joins other large urban school districts such as New York, Houston and Los Angeles in passing and implementing policies that impact healthy school environments.
“A child who is hungry or whose diet is lacking in proper nutrition will have a hard time concentrating in class, and that will directly impact his or her ability to learn,” said CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “Instituting this policy will provide a framework for how we can better serve our school communities in ways that encourage student growth and achievement.”
The policy update comes on the heels of the recent announcement that the District will receive $4.4 million over two years from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support implementation of Healthy CPS, a component of the Mayor’s Healthy Chicago initiative, the city’s first multi-agency public health agenda. Community partners, parents, school administrators, teachers and students provided input into the policy’s development.
Along with providing healthful school food which meets or exceeds USDA standards, the new Local School Wellness policy directly affects the school environment by introducing or raising the bar in the following areas:
- Convening school Wellness Teams and regular reporting of school wellness activities
- Implementing minimum grade level requirements for nutrition education
- Requiring recess for elementary schools
- Prohibiting the use of food or physical activity as a reward or punishment
- Ensuring that students regularly participate in physical activity
Adoption of the policy creates a District-wide approach to student health and wellness. More than 70 CPS schools already comply with the majority of these initiatives as part of their certification under the Healthier US Schools Challenge (HUSSC) gold standard, which is a component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign. Certification is pending for 60 additional CPS schools.
Wellness “Champions” at schools will be responsible for assisting the principal and Local School Councils in ensuring compliance with components of the policy. CPS has already implemented mandatory daily recess for elementary schools as part of its new Full School Day.
“Through implementation of this policy, CPS will firmly establish itself at the forefront of school health and wellness nationally, raising the bar for our school communities and ensuring that every student has access to a healthy environment in which to learn and play,” Byrd-Bennett said.
School communities, with CPS Office of Student Health and Wellness (OSHW) support, will use the first year to determine what within their current practices already comply with the policy and what will need to change. A school wellness survey will be administered, and workshops, webinars and training sessions will be scheduled to help schools build the capacity to comply with the policies. In the second year, OSHW will establish compliance and reporting measures on the impacts of the policy and gauge the changes schools have made to past practices.
In developing the new policy, CPS received support from Healthy Places, an obesity prevention project, to create the District-level Health and Wellness Promotion team dedicated to promoting healthy eating and physical activity, which has now been absorbed under the OSHW. Healthy Places, a joint effort of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC), has also partnered with CPS in their work to both institute programming and increase local schools’ capacity to promote better health and wellness for all children across the District.
Chicago Public Schools serves 403,000 students in 681 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.